It was another strong weekend for #3 Michigan State hockey as they swept Mercyhurst on Friday and Saturday night with a pair of 6-2 wins, extending their NCAA-best winning streak to 8 games.
Michigan State got two goals from junior forward Tim Kennedy and a three-point night by Justin Abdelkader on Friday, with Jeff Lerg made 22 saves to record his seventh victory of the season, and extending his consecutive games started streak to 63 games.
But it was Saturday night that was a game of firsts for MSU hockey.
Coach Rick Comley hinted earlier in the week that Jeff Lerg's streak might come to an end this weekend against Mercyhurst and he held true to his statement, as sophomore backup Bobby Jarosz made his first collegiate start, ending Lerg's streak at 63 games.
Lerg run was third in NCAA history for consecutive starts, with Cornell's David McKee starting 102 straight games from 2004-2006.
As for the game, MSU jumped out to an early lead, with Chris Mueller netting his first goal of the season at 4:48 of the first period. Just 14 seconds later another first happened, Tim Crowder netted his first goal of the season as well as MSU took control of the game.
"It's about time, that's all I have to say," said Mueller. "I didn't even see it hit the back of the net, I just shot it, I finally saw a couple of guys smile so I was like, thank god."
"There was a friendly bet in the locker room with Crowder as to who would score first and I won by 14 seconds," Mueller added.
Mercyhurst responded with a goal of their own just four minutes later on the power-play, with Nick Vandenbeld redirecting a shot from the point past Jarosz.
The second period was all Spartans, with Tim Kennedy netting his ninth goal of the season and his seventh on the power-play, which is top in the nation.
Then it was more Spartan firsts, as two freshman defensemen, A.J. Sturges and Jeff Petry, scored their first collegiate goals.
In an eventful, penalty-filled period, MSU outshot the Lakers in the second alone 24-13. MSU peppered Laker goalie Ryan Zapolski for 52 shots, while Jarosz saw 24.
It was the first time MSU had racked up 52 shots since November 2003.
The Lakers scored another goal on Jarosz in the third period but Justin Abdelkader scored his fifth goal of the season just 45 seconds later.
"The positive is that we got some kids on the board scoring wise that have not scored, hopefully that relaxes them for the future, and we also got Bobby in the game so that was good," said Comley.
Overall, the Spartans controlled the game and did not let the Lakers get too close to their netminder. After giving up a goal in the first five shots he faced, Jarosz settled down and played well, stopping a breakaway in the second period on a nice poke check with his stick.
"I thought he (Jarosz) was really solid for two periods but started scrambling a little in the third," said Comley. "He made several really good saves. We've been tempted to play him before this but Jeff (Lerg) likes to play a lot and so we play him. But we'll get him (Jarosz) in some more games in the future."
Mueller and Kennedy each had a goal and three assists and were joined by Jarosz as Saturday's three stars of the game. Kennedy's tally was already his fourth game-winning goal on the young season.
"I found out I was starting this morning, so I called my parents and they made the trip out here, I was trying to remember all the stuff I did in juniors and I tried to do everything the best I could," said Jarosz.
"I had a lot of nerves, after the first goal the team started playing really well in front of me and I was lucky a couple of times but I held it until the third," he added.
The Spartans are now 8-1-0 on the season and face a tough test on Thursday and Friday next week as they face a top-5 ranked Miami (OH) team.